Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe (centre left) handing over the Operational Guidelines on Preparedness and Response for COVID-19 Outbreak for Parliament to Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake
- COVID-19 guidelines for Parliament stipulate wearing masks at all times inside Chamber
- Shaking hands, hugging in greeting discouraged
- MPs confined to designated seats in Chamber, social distancing required when interacting in lobbies, cafeteria
- Seating in Galleries, Officials’ Box to be arranged in keeping with COVID-19 regulations
- Discussions of virtual meetings for Parliament Committees to be discussed once House convenes
By Chandani Kirinde
MPs in the new Parliament are required to wear masks when inside the Chamber, including while participating in debates, in keeping with the Operational Guidelines on Preparedness and Response for COVID-19 Outbreak for Parliament which was announced yesterday. Members of Parliament should not remove or lower the mask when addressing in Parliament and as long as they remain in the Chamber, the Guidelines stipulate.
The MPs are also discouraged from shaking hands, hugging, or greeting each other in a manner in which they come into physical contact, and should instead adopt other forms of greeting, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake said. Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe handed over the 21-page Operational Guidelines, which include many of the general health regulations pertaining to COVID-19, but also some specifically for Parliamentarians.
These require MPs to sit in the designated seat and maintain social distancing when they interact in the Well of the House or in lobbies, the cafeteria etc.
Sanitisers will be kept at every entrance to the Chamber, and MPs and officials are required to wash their hands before entering the Chamber. Temperature checks will be carried out at the entrance to the building.
It is mandatory for Members of Parliament to follow these guidelines at Committee meetings as well. Parliament officials said that the seating in cafeterias in the building has already been arranged in a manner in keeping with the health guidelines, while seating in the Galleries, Officials’ Box, as well as in the Press Gallery will be done in the same manner.
Officials said that on the first sitting day of the new Parliament, all 225 MPs are required to attend, as the election of a new Speaker as well as the swearing-in of the newly-elected MPs will take place that day.
Thereafter, Parliament can discuss if it is feasible to move towards virtual meetings except on days when a vote is due, the officials said. These guidelines are prepared to cover a number of locations in Parliament, including the Chamber of Parliament, Members’ lounge, the public, media, and special guests’ galleries, Members’ restaurants, library, kitchens, and staff cafeteria. Guidelines have also been issued for transportation services and office cleaning staff.